Jeff Hawke was a British science fiction comic strip created by Sydney Jordan. It was published in the Daily Express from 15 February 1955 to 18 April 1974, by which point Jordan had “written or co-written and drawn 6,474 episodes.” Despite its obscurity in English-speaking countries, it is often regarded as one of the most important science fiction comics ever released, especially in Italy and Scandinavian countries.
Sydney Jordan was a graduate of the Aeronautical Technical School in Reading. He long sought to draw a fantastic comic where he could exploit his skills in drawing aeroplanes. In 1955 he met Eric Souster and Jim Gilbert in London, two friends with whom he had served in the R.A.F. Together they created the character of Jeff Hawke.
At first Jeff Hawke, presented as an ex-R.A.F. pilot (just like Jordan) was a rather ordinary, Flash Gordon-like heroic character. The plots were centred on ordinary adventure and science fiction themes common in pulp comics and fiction of the age, and at this stage the drawings were only of average quality. Nevertheless, the strip was good enough to be published daily in the Daily Express.
In 1956 William Patterson joined his childhood friend Jordan, at first writing only the dialogue. Prior to this he did work on the Children’s Encyclopedia for Amalgamated Press, also doing stories for Dan Dare and war comics. However, after a few years he began to produce plot lines and stories as well. This led to a dramatic improvement in the quality of the comic. Patterson made Jeff Hawke the first science fiction comic strip for adults, not just children or adolescents. Jordan, now concentrating entirely on drawing, improved his style to a highly suggestive, realistic, contrasted black-and-white mark. The Patterson-Jordan period is considered the “true” Jeff Hawke by most.
In 1969, following a number of stresses and pressures, William Patterson’s contract to write Jeff Hawke came to an end. He was not in good mental health and remained in London, separated from his family who stayed in Perth. Willie Patterson’s physical health also was affected and he died in 1986, aged only 57 years old. He was laid to rest in Kensal Green cemetery, attended by his daughters Chrys Muirhead and Frances Patterson, and Sydney Jordan. The 1986 Titan Books republication of Jeff Hawke, Book Two, contains a testimonial to the life of Willie Patterson, by Sydney Jordan.
Jordan took back care of both stories and drawings, but without Patterson the quality of the strip declined again. Finally, on 18 April 1974 the Daily Express published its last Jeff Hawke strip.
In 1977, however, comics artist Brian Bolland was approached by Jordan to ghost some episodes, and remarked that by this point fellow artist – “active in the days of comic fandom” and soon to turn professional – Paul Neary had “already done quite a few.” Bolland drew 15 episodes, and “Syd touched up some of the faces, a few details here and there, to make them look a bit more like him.” By this point, “although the Express owned the rights to the strip, they were not printing it,” but since it had a strong European following, these new episodes (Bolland believes) “got collected in anthologies in French and Spanish,” but not in the UK except briefly in “the fanzine Eureka.”
Jordan later tried to revamp the character by publishing a similar strip called Lance McLane in the Scottish newspaper Daily Record. After this failed to catch on, Jordan came up with an embarrassing plot hole in which McLane somehow transformed himself into Hawke. However the resuscitated strip never recovered the original brilliance of the Patterson period: Jordan left more and more work to his unnamed helpers, and rapidly the strip fell into oblivion.
01 Space Rider
02 The Martian Invasion
03 The Search For Asteron
04 Threat From the Past
05 Opposite Power
07 Unquiet Island
16 Wondrous Lamp
17 Counsel for the defense
19 Immortal Toys
25 Rip Van Haddoc
45 The hole in space
46 The Venusian Club
48 The Poltergeist
49 Rogue Star
50 The Day The Moon Nearly Exploded
51 The Strange Ship
52 Daughter of Eros